Messy Chapters

I originally wrote this list of hard-learned lessons after turning the corner of a messy chapter in my life. Today, these lessons continue to stand true for me, and feel especially relevant to share from the archives in light of this past year- a messy chapter that we’ve experienced collectively, but also uniquely as our own. Despite how arbitrary the designations of chapters in our lives really are, being able to name and embrace the messiness of our messy chapters seems to add some grace. So, for messy chapters- of past, present, and those yet to come- here are some lessons I’ve learned (and continue to re-learn) along the way:

• There are things in life that go so far from plan that just when you think it can’t go any more astray from “the plan”, it does. And will.

Resistance makes everything harder. Ev-er-y-thing. It’s also exhausting. Surrender, and accepting where you are is hard too. But much less exhausting. And at times, sweetly freeing.

• Comfort with failure. Or at least to be comfortable with the uncomfortable nature of it. To abandon the dichotomy of success and failure altogether, and to notice instead, that everyone has a story. Some stories are linear, but more often they wind and curl. I am more intrigued by the people with the stories that wind and curl, anyway. Those are the people that look back at you with wide, compassionate eyes, as if their eyes were listening as much as their ears.

• Familiarity with shame. To recognize it, sit with it, and watch it come and go instead of taking a deep dive into the futility of acting to numb it away. To distinguish shame as a cruel questioning of one’s self-worth from guilt as a more productive emotion (when well-placed) to adjust and realign with one’s good intentions, and to move along as needed.

• That curiosity is a state of mind that works wonders. As does compassion, toward self and others. Curiosity and compassion are like human superpowers, but accessing them is a never-ending practice. Next to the people in my life that love me without condition, they have been inexhaustible sources of resilience.

• That there are factors much bigger than ourselves, our plans, and our egos. What’s hardest and most uncomfortable is almost always, if not always, the richest source of wisdom.

And of course, I’m still learning, falling, forgetting, learning, and re-learning. With that, I find myself holding an even wider embrace for the messiness, where I come into the deeper truth that if there are any chapters at all, there’s only one, and every bit of it counts.

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